Adam Smith and Katie Schlieper contributed to this piece.
With campaign rhetoric turning to race, and all eyes on the South Carolina and Nevada primaries in the coming week, top contributing zip codes to presidential campaigns are among the wealthiest and whitest neighborhoods in these states, according to analysis by Public Campaign.
In The Battery, Charleston, South Carolina's historic downtown district, with its big mansions and old wealth, the residents of the zip code 29401 have donated nearly $200,000 in the first three quarters of 2007, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. The area is 90 percent non-Hispanic white and 24 percent of households bring in over $100,000 per year. In 2004, the same residents donated more than $102,000 to the presidential race, according to Public Campaign's Color of Money report.
In Loris, though, a small town on the North Carolina border, which has just one zip code, 29569, nobody has given donations over $200 to any of this year's crop of presidential candidates, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. The town is 30 percent African-American and about 20 percent of families are living below the poverty level, according to U.S. Census data. In 2004, Loris residents gave $250 to presidential candidates--per capita contributions of about two cents, according to the Color of Money.
In Nevada, the story's similar. The people living in the top giving zip code 89117 in Las Vegas have already donated about $200,000 in campaign contributions to presidential candidates. The zip code is predominately non-Hispanic white and 18 percent of the households make over $100,000 a year. Meanwhile, in other areas of the state, the five zip codes representing the highest Latino population and twice the number of residents compared to the ritzy Las Vegas zip code have donated less than one fifth of that amount.
In 2004, 90 percent of campaign contributions to Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) and President George W. Bush came from non-Hispanic white zip codes, according to Color of Money. Places like the Upper East Side in New York City or Beverly Hills donate millions of dollars every cycle.
If money buys influence, then rich white people are cornering the market in the 2008 election cycle. There are only a few weeks left in the wealth primary. Several candidates have already dropped out because they couldn't get enough donors to pony up.
Sens. Richard Durbin (D-IL) and Arlen Specter (R-PA) are hoping to increase the power of small donors and make running for political office more accessible. They are the lead sponsors of the Fair Elections Now Act, S. 1285, legislation that would bring full public financing of elections to the Senate. The bill is modeled on successful systems in Maine and Arizona. On the presidential front, Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) and a bipartisan group of colleagues in both chambers are supporting legislation to update the current presidential partial public financing system by substantially increasing the clout of small donors.
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